Perf Improvement LO14652

Ray Evans Harrell (mcore@IDT.NET)
Mon, 11 Aug 1997 18:04:20 -0700

Replying to LO14640 --

To the list:

Hello back from lurking, have been enjoying the discussion, just wanted to
note a couple of issues in James post. wrote:

>Most organizations (except for certain non-profits) are rated
>according to their bottom line and thus, in an indirect way,
>the quality of their product, be it people or things.

I'm not exactly sure of the above statement. Putting the nonprofit
statement in didn't make sense to me. Maybe, working in a nonprofit and
dealing with the private world has made me paranoid but what I heard you
say was that we are not as concerned with quality due to our not being
concerned with financial shareholder profit. Did you mean to imply this?

My experience in the nonprofit world is the opposite take on this. i.e.
you get it right no matter what the cost, period! This implies a higher
standard of quality while the private business is more concerned with an
"economy of scale" productivity model which does not imply quality except
to the level of the quality of the competitor. When Steinway Piano
accepted this quality curve their artists nearly rioted. Quality is not
for profit but is absolute in this sense. That is the reason you have no
more Teflon in Steinway pianos. They decided to "get it right" and that
set the quality. Too bad the Hubbell wasn't built by Steinway. What I'm
saying is that I think the profit motive is overrated as a stimulus for
quality. Quality comes from competence, worker pride and personal
fulfillment on the job. Workers that I deal with often consider
management "in the way" on that one.

>The missing link in Mr. Constantines posting in the intensity and
>importance of the feedback (not just during the evaluation period)
>between the employee and the manager. The object of a performance
>review is (or at least,should be) to rate the employee against a
>stated goal. The employee should be rewarded for meeting or
>exceeding the goal, but not punished for falling short.

I have no feeling on this. It is not appropriate to our performance
structures, unless you mean you pat a success on the back and warn a
failure. Still feels political. Expertise knows when its not
accomplishing the task. We must be careful not to injure the person's
pride in the product outcome.

> If such
>behavior is so ubiquitous, then it points to the fact that the
>employee is in the wrong position. Of course this doesn't necessarily
>mean that the employee has chosen the wrong vocation, but may mean
>that the employee cannot perform in _that_ environment. (snip)

You must be dealing with very basic level employees with skills that are
not very complicated. Is this correct? Highly trained employees who have
paid for their education and were motivated by internal career goals with
families to protect, can be turned to poor attitude and cynical reaction
by a "here comes the judge" approach, IME. It is this sort of thing that
makes orchestras read the newspapers in the middle of rehearsal. When you
need real authority to complete the job, is it not self-defeating to get
involved in an evaluative power struggle?

>Training and coaching is only part an the on going process that is a
>piece of the continuous feedback loop (between employee and manager).
>It is up to the employee to work out peripheral issues with their
>manager that may negatively impact performance. (snip)

In our companies it is up to the employee to work out the skill issues for
him/herself. It is up to the manager and employer to facilitate the
completion of the employee's task in the most efficient manner possible.
Anything else is politics. Feedback loops in our business tend to become
binary lap dances. They may feel good but they often get in the way.

It is crucial not to get in the way of the employee's skill in our
nonprofit business. Self-motivation is very high in the art's industry.
For every dollar invested in government grants, the individual worker
stimulates an eleven to twelve dollar individual return to the society.
This is essential to the success of the nonprofit entrepreneurial ventures
as well as to quiet the hostility created in the mind of the taxpayer if
that return is not considerably more than the private sector.

> In fact, most of the (evaluations?) I
>have been involved with (and I have seen many) give generous allowance
>for subjective analysis of the employees performance with respect to
>the employees state of mind.
> Yes, we are all pieces of clay and we are constantly being molded by
> outside factors (that affect our psyche). True, the individual has to
> _want_ to change.

I don't believe there is an organization in the world that is more molded
in the moment than a symphony orchestra. However, if you referred to
those individual experts as "pieces of clay" to be "changed" by the
conductor then you would have a conductor on his way out. The most
profound LO in the Artistic world is the Berlin Philharmonic which elects
its member and its conductor by vote from the ensemble. They happen to be
the best orchestra in the world. They also fired their master conductor
Herbert von Karajan when he was too old to do the work although the
customers still came to see the "great Maestro." It is the orchestra's
PRODUCT that is molded, not their individual personal lives. They are
jealous of their personal artistry as an extension of their pride and

> I don't want an individual with no desire for
> personal growth or improvement working for-or-with me. It is part of
> management to help employees 'develop' through 'coaching', thereby
> increasing productivity for the organization as a whole.

If I may judge, I would say that your employees are not mature enough in
their skill to do the work required if all of this "coaching" is
necessary. In my vocation, it is the individual who hires the coach
before they meet the company coaches. The company's coaches prepare the
individual for the particular demands of that ensemble(very high level
fine tuning). But the personal basic work is individual and the
individual hires their trainer. If they are not prepared then they are
used but never rehired and their names go into company computers around
the world listing this particular problem. Sometimes it takes several
years to be rehired. Sometimes never.

> A healthy
> organization indeed DOES require constant evaluation, measurement, and
> constant improvement. The organization that does not require these
> things is the most unhealthy of all, for it has nowhere to go.

Again, in our nonprofit "Public Goods" work, the audience decides and
evaluates first, then the issues of company cohesion are important,
however if the person is a great artist, the company itself may be
required to change.

Well, I hope this is relevant. Sorry to have gone on so long.


Ray Evans Harrell, artistic director The Magic Circle Chamber Opera of New York

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